Knowing how to get started, who you can ask for help, and where you can find supportive groups is half the networking battle.

Networking in an Engineering Career: How Do You Connect?

Feb 10, 2022

by ASME.org

Professional networking is an invaluable tool for engineers. The right networking strategy can connect you with opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, keep you in the loop on conversations about emerging technologies like AI and additive manufacturing. And what’s more, it can put you on the ground floor for opportunities in new lines of engineering work.

But while networking is key to professional development, many professionals feel like they don’t have the bandwidth for it—a LinkedIn survey found that 49% of participants felt they didn’t have enough time to network even though they wanted to.

This is a misconception, because there are many useful ways to network as an engineer. Even if you only have a few minutes a day, you can still find opportunities to help your career.

Knowing how to get started, who you can ask for help, and where you can find supportive groups is half the networking battle.

Ways to get involved

It’s always nice when new opportunities fall into your lap, but growing your network requires getting involved.

Thankfully, there are a wealth of networking opportunities out there, and some are a lot easier to access than you might think. Here are a few key places to consider plugging in.

Professional organizations

One of the easiest ways to tap into a robust social network is through national professional organizations such as ASME, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), or the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Professional organizations can give you access to the knowledge and support of your peers both locally and nationally.

At ASME, for example, members can gain access to dozens of annual conferences, over 200 annual technical courses and masterclasses, and a plethora of local events coordinated by professional sections. These opportunities don’t just help you expand your professional skills. They also put you in touch with other professionals who are engaged in similar work—and those colleagues can make for meaningful networking contacts.

Local engineering groups

Depending on where you’re located, you may be able to find engineering groups and associations in your area, and if you belong to national professional organizations, you may already have local chapters and events. For example, all ASME members belong to local, volunteer-led professional sections based on their geographic location. These sections offer local events, training opportunities, and more.

ASME’s professional sections are lively communities where you can explore a wide range of activities:

  • Volunteer for educational outreach with young students
  • Participate in an engineering competition
  • Take tours of manufacturing or research facilities, power plants, and other locations

Participating in professional sections lets you expand your engineering knowledge, but it’s also a great chance to network with other engineers in person. These relationships can lead to professional collaboration, job opportunities, or simply the chance to gain new perspectives on your industry.

There are also stand-alone engineering groups throughout the U.S. If you live near a major metropolitan area, look for options via Meetup or local Makerspaces. Local groups may not be solely focused on mechanical engineering, but they make up for that by offering lively, interdisciplinary perspectives.

Participating in one of these groups can seem like a significant commitment, but it’s also a valuable way to extend your reach and grow your connections. And the knowledge and support you gain through these connections can far outweigh the time spent building them.

Technical interest groups

You can also look for professional groups dedicated to your areas of technical interest. Whether you’re an aerospace engineer, a heat transfer specialist, or a solar energy expert, you can find plenty of groups full of like-minded professionals—either online or through the professional organizations you belong to.

Immersing yourself in a technical interest group allows you to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in your discipline, contribute to thought leadership, and collaborate on innovative projects.

Attend local events, conferences, and trade shows

You can also keep your eyes open for engineering conferences and trade shows in your area. These events allow you to interact face-to-face with other professionals, including people who aren’t members of your professional organizations.

When attending engineering events, strike up conversations and gather contact information (or hand it out yourself). Ask questions about what kinds of projects people are working on, what tools their company uses to make remote work manageable for engineers, or what trends they’re seeing in their areas of specialization. Or simply ask what speakers or demonstrations they’re looking forward to—there are lots of good ways to kick off an interesting conversation at these events.

You don’t have to just be a spectator at events, either. If you’re passionate about the work you’ve been doing, consider pitching a presentation. For example, if your company has adopted digital twin technology to improve manufacturing processes, consider presenting on the challenges you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from the experience.

Use your mentors and work connections

Odds are, you probably already have connections to draw on, even if it doesn’t seem like it at first thought.

If you have helpful mentors you’ve learned from in the past or work with other colleagues in the engineering field, turn to them for networking help. They can help you with questions and resources and refer you to valuable contacts.

And if you’re ever feeling reluctant to ask for help, remember that networking is always a two-way street. You never know when one of your colleagues or a former mentor may be looking for help or connections themselves. Establishing trust with the people in your circle and using them to grow your network of contacts can benefit everyone involved in the long run.

Leverage virtual events for more opportunities

Virtual meetings will never feel quite the same as in-person meet-ups, but they can still serve a valuable purpose in helping you meet your networking goals.

As virtual attendance at conferences, seminars, and other industry events becomes increasingly common, it’s easier than ever to plug in with the engineering community, even if the events you want to attend are all the way across the country.

Online forums and resources like LinkedIn can also provide fruitful networking opportunities. Look for discussion groups dedicated to engineering topics or LinkedIn groups relevant to your area of specialization. Communicating with other professionals online can even lead to exchanging contact information and unexpected job opportunities down the road.

ASME is ready to help you connect

If you’re looking for professional connections but having a hard time finding the right place to start, we’re here to help.

We take pride in ensuring our engineers never have to go it alone. With access to national and local events, networking support, professional development opportunities, and other vital resources ASME members always have a community to fall back on.

If you’re wondering how ASME can help you grow your network, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always at the ready to help engineers foster connections that drive the industry forward.

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